Sophomore ace Jayda Koontz leads South Western softball to Division I title

Ryan Vandersloot
For The York Dispatch

It’s not often that a player transitions from the shadows to the spotlight as quickly as South Western softball standout Jayda Koontz has this season.

After playing mostly as the Mustangs designated hitter as a freshman, Koontz was given a chance to shine on the mound following the graduation of the team’s top pitchers from last year’s PIAA qualifier.

Maybe shine is a bit of an understatement.

One look at the stats brings one word to mind — domination. After Monday’s 15-0 thrashing of Spring Grove, Koontz improved to 12-1 on the season while allowing just two earned runs (out of 14 total) over 81 innings, which equates to a minuscule 0.17 ERA.

South Western's Jayda Koontz delivers a pitch during a game against Spring Grove on Monday, May 8, 2023, in Hanover. Koontz pitched a shutout as the host Mustangs won 15-0 and clinched the York-Adams Division I title.

“She’s been dominating,” Dallastown coach Matthew Dowell said of Koontz. “We didn’t know about her at all. I think last year we saw her for maybe an inning when we were up big. Jayda has a great pitch and she knows how to control it.”

That pitch is a nasty curveball that has befuddled even the best of the hitters in the York-Adams League this season. Koontz, a left-hander, has nearly 100 strikeouts this season and has allowed less than 50 hits over 81 innings pitched.

“My pitches move the opposite way than what they do for right-handed pitchers,” the southpaw Koontz said. “It’s a different look for the batter as it breaks in on the right-handed hitters instead of away from them.”

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It’s one thing to have movement, but it’s another to be able to control it and throw strikes regularly — something Koontz has done a lot of this year so far.

“She really controls the game,” Dowell said of Koontz. “And she’s only a sophomore, so she’s going to be something. We’re probably going to be seeing her four or more times the next two years, at least.”

South Western's Jayda Koontz (29) pitches while third baseman Kinsley Proepper defends during the Mustangs' 15-0 win over Spring Grove on Monday, May 8, 2023, in Hanover.

While Koontz does not lack for confidence one bit, she accepted the situation she was in last year as a freshman. Senior teammates Emalee Reed (Division II Pitcher of the Year) and Ryleigh Sprague (Division II Player of the Year) took the mound regularly as the Mustangs cruised to the Division II title. South Western moved up to Division I this year.

“Last year the team thrived behind those two,” Koontz said. “So they didn’t really need me until this year. I worked hard all winter and I’m just grateful for the opportunity that I got. It’s all kind of worked out great.”

Part of what makes Koontz so effective is that the defense behind her has routinely made the big plays when necessary. The Mustangs have Riley Crowl at short and Kinsley Proepper at third — a pair of returning all-stars from last year’s club — giving Koontz a figurative brick wall on the left side of the infield.

“Our defense has been solid all year,” Koontz said. “And our offense has been getting better and growing all season.”

South Western softball's infield gathers at the mound during Monday's game against Spring Grove. The Mustangs clinched the York-Adams Division I title with a 15-0 win.

Case in point — Proepper smacked three home runs against Spring Grove on Monday while Koontz pitched her sixth shutout of the season as the Mustangs (17-1) clinched at least a share of the Division I title with the triumph. South Western also clinched a berth in the upcoming York-Adams League playoffs next week, as they owned the tiebreaker with a sweep of second-place Dallastown this season.

As just a sophomore, Koontz has yet to be involved much with college recruiters, something that likely will change in the upcoming few months.

“I haven’t heard from anyone so far,” said Koontz, who noted Auburn and Virginia Tech as a pair of her dream destinations in a couple of years. “Hopefully I’ll get some looks this summer.”